“At Em+Pact, we do what most guys don’t: We listen to what women want. And we are hearing women say they are tired of half-eaten, folded-over protein bars in the bottom of their purses. They are tired of paying $3 for a protein bar and then only eating half of it,” Em+Pact Founder and Chief Gentleman Zeke DeRose III told FoodNavigator-USA at Natural Products Expo West earlier this month.
DeRose, who started the company with his wife, added that many women prefer bars that are 140-160 calories and that are made with nothing artificial, including artificial sweeteners, and which won’t make them feel bloated.
Em+Pact checks these boxes by offering smaller sized bars that can be eaten individually as a snack or as a pair for a meal replacement, and which are high in fiber, low-glycemic, have only 5 grams of sugar – mostly from dates, which are a good source of potassium and energy, chia seeds, flax and sorgum crisps.
The bars also include probiotics and prebiotics, which DeRose notes are “growing trends that help gut health, immune support, brain cognition and more – all of which are beneficial to women.”
He also notes that the bars standout from the crowded category because unlike many competitors that are focused on men or high endurance athletes, Em+Pact “blatantly, unapologetically” targets women, many of whom do not eat enough protein, despite the nation’s obsession with the macronutrient.
“What we are seeing is women are not getting enough protein and way too much sugar,” in part because culturally they are taught to focus on calories instead of protein, DeRose said. “Women tend to eat lower calorie foods that make them feel full, like vegetables, kale, salads and bananas. But a banana has 17-19 grams of sugar and only 1 gram of protein. So, while they are trying to be health conscious, at the end of the day, if you are not paying attention, you might not have enough protein.”
Empowering women to reach their goals
But the bar’s nutritional makeup is not the only way that Em+Pact strives to help women. DeRose explains that the company also works with several nonprofit organizations that directly empower women, girls and their communities.
“The first nonprofit is the Women’s Bean Project, which helps chronically underemployed and impoverished women transitioning to full-time employment. It is a six-month job training program, at the end of which they have 100% job placement and a year later they have 100% retention,” DeRose said.
He explained that Em+Pact was drawn to the organization because the nonprofit was turning away four out of five women seeking help because they didn’t have the resources or work to offer. Em+Pact created a side project with the nonprofit so more women could help package the product and learn basic job skills.
The second nonprofit is Jonathan’s Place, which helps girls who fall in and out of the foster care system. DeRose said. He explained that Em+Pact wants to help the girls gain confidence and learn social skills by helping to promote and interact with the brand in stores.
The third group that the company supports combats sex-trafficking, he said, adding that as the company grows it hopes to expand the network of nonprofits and groups that it works with to further empower women.
To get to that point though, the brand first needs to expand its distribution and presence in retailers. It already has distribution in all UNFI warehouses nationwide and its goal at Expo West was to find a major retailer willing to give it an opportunity.
In addition, the young company is focused on brand awareness and finding strategic partners who can help further its goals, DeRose said.